The USA is a country in which thousands of Palestinians migrated after the first Nakba of 1948 (Oxford defines “NDictionarys, the Arabic translation for “catastrophe”). Today, five percent of the Arab population in the US is Palestinian, according to the Arab American Institute Foundation.
Palestinian Americans exiled Palestinians, and Palestinians from the West Bank (and Gaza) did not receive significant welcomings to exhibit in US museums. In 2003, what was supposed to be the most influential Palestinian exhibition of the US (“Made in Palestine '') was refused to be curated by ninety-three American museums.
Although the exhibition aimed to celebrate the Palestinian identity in various ways and reflect on the situation of both Israelis and Palestinians, as well (and primarily) reflecting on the American-Palestinian place as exiled.
A Place of Resistance
This refusal was a shock amongst Palestinian artists and organizers. Consequently, American Palestinians recently decided to take control over the exhibitions of Palestinian Art in the US by creating their institution, such as the first Palestinian Museum of the US, “Palestine Museum US'' (which was built in April 2018 and is located in Woodbridge, Connecticut).
The museum was created to include American Palestinian contemporary Art into American culture and recognize its place in the American art world. Faisal Saleh, the creator of this institution, called it “the place where Palestinian artistic achievement is celebrated as part of the rich diversity of people and cultures that make up the United States.”
However, this Museum also includes the works of art of Palestinians living across the world and those living in the controlled areas of the Westbank, as well as Gaza. Indeed, the museum uses the US’s image of freedom fighters to exhibit the Palestinians’ artworks of those living in the occupied territories (which indirectly includes them as part of the movement).
This approach is explained by the need to disregard the legal prohibitions Palestinians who live in the divided settlements of cis-Jordan and Gaza face. Those are forbidden to share their art freely with the world.
The Palestine Museum of the US serves as a political tool for those who live in the fragmented segments of their land and who cannot show and sell their art in peace, as claimed by the museum: “Saleh hails the launch of the first permanent Palestinian museum in the Americas as a historic opportunity that entails a heavy responsibility that must be shouldered with great care and determination. Part of this responsibility involves helping to provide a venue, and a viable market, for Palestinian artists who continue to create art under Israeli military occupation, severe economic conditions, and travel restrictions.”
The Palestine U.S Museum: A Common Ground For Palestinians
When Saleh created the museum, he aimed to create a microcosm of Palestine, or what scholar Susanne Drake called “micro-territory.” For Saleh, the museum’s missions are to “research and preserve Palestinian history, showcase the Palestinian experience, pre, and post-Nakbah, in Palestine and the diaspora, celebrate Palestinian cultural and artistic achievements, and tell the Palestinian story to the US and global audience through works of art, film, literature, and mixed media''.
The museum seems to be a tool to serve the collective memory of the diaspora against the danger of erasure. In the meantime, Palestinian managers and Chairman take control of the narrative given to America about the lives and experiences of Palestinians and exiled Palestinians.
The museum joins the fragmented art of Palestinians into one place to be a form of cultural common ground for all Palestinians; it reunites exiled and non-exiled Palestinians.
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